Chemotherapy: Only 2% Effective

Posted on Nov 19, 2013 in Cancer

In a highly controversial article published in 2004, three oncologists assessed the impact of cancer drugs on survival rates in Australia and the United States.(7) The authors analyzed the results of all randomized, controlled clinical trials performed in Australia and the U.S. that reported a statistically significant increase in 5-year survival due to the use of chemotherapy in adult cancers. Data from 1990-2004 were examined.

The authors found that the overall contribution of chemotherapy to the five-year survival rate in adults was about 2%. In other words, as stated by one of the authors, Graeme Morgan, during a radio interview, “if there was no chemotherapy…the survival rate of all patients with cancer would drop from 62% to 60%.” As summarized by the authors, “despite the early claims of chemotherapy as the panacea for curing all cancers, the impact of cytotoxic chemotherapy is limited to small subgroups of patients and mostly occurs in the less common malignancies.” (7)

Chemotherapy Can Cause Devastating Side Effects

The authors addressed the issue of why so many patients undergo chemotherapy treatment when the benefits are generally so small. According to the authors, the answer is a game of statistics. The medical profession often presents the benefit of chemotherapy to patients in terms of relative risk instead of giving a straight assessment of the impact of such intervention on the overall survival rate. Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D., explained this difference in his March 5, 2006 newsletter.(8)

Dr. Moss explained that while relative risk is technically accurate, it has the effect of making the intervention look more beneficial than it truly is. For example, as explained by Dr. Moss, if receiving a treatment causes a patient’s risk to drop from 4% to 2%, this can be expressed to a patient as a decrease in relative risk of 50%, which sounds very impressive. But another and equally accurate way of explaining this reduction in risk is to say that the treatment offers only a 2% reduction in risk, which most likely would not impress most patients.

The presentation of these statistics in relative versus absolute terms has even been shown to influence treatment recommendations of oncologists.(8) Ironically, one of the criticisms of the 2004 chemotherapy study was that it examined absolute instead of relative benefit of chemotherapy to patients. The truth of the matter remains that if a seriously ill cancer patient was presented with a chemotherapy regime that would cause only a 2% reduction in risk while causing numerous and devastating side effects, he or she might opt for another form of treatment.


Source: excerpts taken from article (The Reasons Why Insurance Companies Refuse to Cover Natural Medicine) posted on


(7) Morgan, G., Ward, R., and Barton, M. The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies. Clin. Oncol. (R Coll Radiol). 2004 Dec; 16(8): 549-60.

(8) Moss, R.W. Aussie Oncologists Criticize Chemotherapy- Part One. Cancer Decisions Newsletter. March 5, 2006. – See more at: